KUCHING (Oct 26, 2012): Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian has asked the state government to explain the destruction of 2.68 million hectares of the state's forest land since last year.
"Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud had last year said that about 70 % or 8.68 million hectares of Sarawak's land mass of 12.4 million hectares was still covered with permanent forests, but in a statement a few days ago, the chief minister stated that the total forest area stands at 6 million hectares," he said.
"This means that, just over a period of one year, some 2.68 million hectares of our forest has been destroyed," the Ba'Kelalan state assemblyman said.
"Does the chief minister intend to continue clearing what is left? Will the figure next year be 5 million hectares?
" What about the countless number of people displaced and dispossessed by logging and plantation companies who are now fighting for their native customary rights (NCR) lands?
Baru said the issues that need to be addressed are - how much of land has been allotted for plantation, and how much is protected forests, and the burning question being how much of forest land ended up being used for plantation activities.
"I asked these questions at the last sitting of the State Assembly, but I have yet to receive an answer despite the reminders I have sent.
"My law firm has handled at least five cases where tracts of protected forests were given to plantation companies. If this can happen, then no land is safe even if it is designated as protected forest," he added.
He said that Sarawak's forestry practices is directed by the government and the people have every right to be critical.
"This is a government who is skilled at espousing the right virtues but when it comes to practising what it preaches, we are often disappointed," he said.